Knowing God

May 21, 2017

Norwalk First United Methodist Church

Our Vision

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Knowing God

Genesis 2:4-25

          Let me begin by asking you a few rhetorical questions. How many here would like to know more about God? How many here today would like to know God’s promises to you and to me? How many here would like to have a more intimate relationship with God? I can tell you how to do all these things. The easy answer is Read His Book!

You have probably either heard or said the following yourself: “I’ve tried to read the Bible, but I’ve never made it all the way through.” “I’ve read bits and pieces of the Bible, but I don’t really know how they all fit together.” “I’ve never read the Bible, but I’d be interested to find out what’s in it.” “I love the Bible. I just need a little help understanding how it applies to my life today.” If any of that sounds familiar, then you are not alone. We could probably tally less than 100 Methodists in a 50 mile radius of this church who have read the entire Bible and know God’s story. What’s sad is the fact that you and I know that this is probably true. It is a shame that we do not spend more time in the world’s most important book.

Whitney Kuniholm in The Essential Bible Guide writes the following: “The Bible is the world’s most important book. It has sold more copies than any other volume in history. It is the reference point for both the Jewish and Christian religions. It has also affected the culture, law, art, morality, and behavior of nearly every society on earth.”

Whitney goes on to say, “But the Bible is more than just an influential book. It is the historical record of the most important story of all time: God’s interaction with humankind; [with you and me.] Although the Bible contains many different styles of writing and introduces us to a wide variety of characters, everything in it combines to tell one main story: God created the world, humans rebelled against God, and God initiated a plan to save the world—a plan that culminated in Jesus Christ. That’s the “Big Story” that makes sense of the Bible and all of life.” If you want to know God, read His Book! Would you pray with me?

 

PRAYER

 

Right from the start, the Bible introduces us to its author and main character: “In the beginning God…” The rest of this unique and wonderful book is all about Him. The Bible is God’s Word. The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books from many different authors written under and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is God’s Word. Listen to these words from 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the[people] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Listen to this key phrase again, all Scripture is God-breathed.

Can’t you just imagine this? Picture the author of one of the books of the Bible sitting at his writing desk or some other place, with the Spirit of God hovering above him. With each breathe of God, the author and writer of one of the Bible books is compelled to put the thoughts of God to paper as a revelation to the rest of us; to all humankind. How amazing is that? It gives me Goosebumps just to think of it. We are reading what God has breathed. “And God said…” If you want to know God, read His book!

The Bible also says in John 10:35 that “the Scripture cannot be broken” or some translations have it that the Scripture cannot be annulled. God’s word is God’s Word. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is truth and it cannot be changed. God’s word has been handed down over many centuries with very few changes from some of the earliest manuscripts that have been found in the past 70 years. No other document in history can make this claim. “And God said…”

In our reading today we not only meet God, we also learn how He made the universe; how He made heaven and earth. Notice that in each of the seven days of creation, God took the initiative. He had a plan and a design for His world. The Creation is God’s first words. Listen. “And God said: Let there be light…Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water…Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear…Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night…Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky…Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds and let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

God spoke the universe into existence! He spoke the universe into existence out of nothing! Imagine the power, the awesomeness of the creation. Imagine the feeling of majesty and wonder; all this around us now, from just the word. Wouldn’t you like to feel that power? Wouldn’t you have liked to be present?

When my daughters used to live in our house and I spoke, not a whole lot happened many times. There were people there, but no one was listening to dear old Dad. I’m sure you have never had that happen. I would speak in my most bold, God-like voice: “Mary, clean your room. Elizabeth, take out the trash.” But then, there would be silence. For some reason Mary’s room didn’t come back to the nice tidy order in which I would have liked to see it. Nor did the trash go out. I just didn’t get it. Where was the power of my word? Imagine the power of creation. “And God said…”

Now in this Creation story we get a chance to see the way God orders the universe from the most general to the most detailed. He has a plan for everything and his plans are always so wonderful in the way they play out. Job even said to God in chapter 42, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” Look at this. Look how God organized his work.

Day 1, he creates Light – Day/Night. Then in Day 4, he puts in the details, Sun, Moon, and Stars. Day 2, God creates Sky, and Water below and then on Day 5, he places the details, Birds and Fish. Day 3, he creates Land, Seas, and Vegetation. Then on   Day 6, he creates the Animals and Humankind.

Now, I want to digress for just a minute, because the creation of the animals reminded me of this. When my daughter Mary was a young teen, she and I spent a summer week on a mission trip to Camp Echoing Hills in Coshocton, OH. During this week, we had the privilege of working with the physically and mentally disabled campers. On a Tuesday of that week, we took all the campers to the Columbus Zoo for an outing. Each volunteer was paired with a camper.

When our group got to the tigers, there was a great display about all the extinct tiger species with a cage that was empty. My camper thought that one of the extinct species was in the cage we went past. I told him that extinct means the tiger no longer exists. He said, “No, I know an extinct tiger when I see one!”

Isn’t it amazing! From the most general to the most complex, God created the universe. His exactness, his attention to detail, his perfection allowed God to admire his work and see that it was good. I think there are times when we become so proud of our accomplishments. And when I say we, I mean humankind in general. We tend to think we are better than the one who created us. Sometimes we think we are “all that” when it comes to building the great Panama Canal, or the tallest skyscrapers of the world, or landing men on the moon, sending spacecraft to the ends of the solar system, splitting the atom, cloning animals, repairing the human body, etc. The list goes on and on. Now don’t get me wrong, these are great accomplishments, but it pales in comparison to what God created for us. When we get too big for our britches, God has a way to humble us. Just listen in as God, in his anger, answers Job about Elihu’s accusations in chapter 38:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

          “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment.”

          Wow! God certainly has a way of putting everything in perspective for us. He has a way of letting us know who is in charge. “And God said…” If you want to know God, read His book.

Well, we have gotten this far and I have yet to make much mention of God’s greatest creation. In fact, it was the only creation about which he said it was very good. On the sixth day, the apex of God’s creative abilities was man and woman; people created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27-28: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” God’s creation was perfect. Every piece was in place. God now had the ability to share his overflowing love with all of his creation and especially with his greatest creation, man and woman. God’s community on earth was complete, just like the community in heaven.

Many people believe that the Bible gives us two different accounts of the creation from two different sources. But if you look closely it is merely two perspectives on the same Creation Story. In Genesis 1:1 – 2:3, we get the “big picture” of creation, more like an outline or overview of everything God accomplished in six days. But when you read on from Genesis 2:4-25, we get a closer look at what might be called in newspaper journalism, “the human interest story”. We get more information on the most important part of the story, the key part of the story, the creation of humankind.

In this “human interest story” we learn that God created a beautiful community for the man and woman, a garden in the east, called Eden. Adam, whose name means ‘humankind,’ and Eve, whose name means ‘she who gives life,’ were given full reign in the garden. And in the middle of this garden were two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is from this more detailed story in Genesis 2 that we learn that human beings possess at least two other distinctives besides being made in the image of God.

The first is God’s life. Genesis 2:7 reads, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Once again, God’s loving nature causes him to breathe his own life into the man called Adam. Adam, and later Eve, have become an extension of God himself.

The second distinctive is God’s standards. Man and woman are given a conscience, an innate sense that there is such a thing as right and wrong. Genesis 2:16-17: “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…” To have anything less than a conscience and free-will would be considered inhuman. As creatures, created by a loving God, and placed in dominion over all the earth, we are given these two special distinctions: God’s life and God’s standards. Only a loving God would so endow the apex of His creation.

In this initial Genesis story, the story of Creation, we really get a sense of God’s self-revelation. He is beginning to tell us about himself. He is telling us about his need to make order from chaos. He is telling us about his need to share his love. He is telling us about his need to create and to share that which he created. He is teaching us about empathy for his creation, knowing that the man he created needed a helper, a deliverer, so that he would not be alone. Already, two chapters into the Bible, we are beginning to discover a wonderful and loving God of all creation.

Knowing God as you do already, you need to constantly ask yourself, “In what ways do I see evidence of God in the world around me? What makes me aware of his Creation?” And when I become aware of that, do I begin to feel closer to the God who created me in his image?

Folks, here is the bottom line. God wants you to know him. He has given you a great book from which to do that. If you want to know God, read His Book, the Bible.

One part of our church vision is “Knowing God.” I now challenge you with these questions. Will you take the opportunity to meet God every day, to have a daily encounter with the God who made you, who loves you, and who desires to have a living relationship with you? And, will you take the opportunity to deepen your spiritual life? God made you and me in His image, and he wants to see a reflection of Himself in every one of us. Praise be to God, the author of Creation!

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